PAIGE SEYMOUR (HMP/YOI Elmley)
AWARD WINNER 2022-23: Prison Officer Paige’s Award is for her remarkable skill, compassion, and empathy in her work on HMP/YOI Elmley’s In-patient unit – “far in advance” of what would normally be expected – helping to manage and care for men with particularly challenging and complex needs.
[Her Award is supported by Sodexo – Government.]
Paige’s initial nominator, Wayne Morley, is Head of Healthcare & Drug Strategy, and describes Officer Paige Seymour’s ‘attitude and commitment’ to her role in Elmley’s In Patients Department (IPD). This is a very busy unit holding a small population of ‘very unwell men with physical and complex mental illnesses, including some very difficult men with neurodiversity needs.’ He adds that the IPD ‘is an extremely challenging population that can test the resilience of staff to breaking point – but not with Paige, [who] just has a sense of what each individual needs and cares for them as an individual and specific to their needs, no matter how complex.’
However, Paige goes further, conducting research on subjects and suggesting new solutions, developing and publishing behavioural and management plans ‘far in advance of what I expect of a Prison Officer.’ Most importantly, ‘the plans work and make a real difference to the patient’s stability’ – making her colleagues working day ‘much safer and more rewarding.’
‘Most patients spoke highly of Paige to me, and each knew exactly their plan and the part they had to play in it. One very difficult patient described her as a ‘bossy mother…exactly what he needed to assist his recovery.’ This balance between empathy and discipline Paige shows is impressive.
Another of Paige’s strengths lies in developing reintegration plans. Here she uses her knowledge of patients and partner agencies to develop highly successful support and care packages that is appropriate to gradually settle men on to a prison Houseblock, all done alongside and above her general Prison Officer duties.
Paige has been recognised as ‘the key person who has physically intervened and de-escalated a high number of dangerous situations. It is no exaggeration that her interventions have potentially saved the life of a number of men in her care.’
HMP Elmley’s Governor, Andy Davy, adds his own testimonial:
‘I have witnessed first-hand the excellent work that she performs on a daily basis. She is compassionate, decent and considered in the performance of her role within the Inpatients department. Paige does not need to force or work hard in individual interactions with our more unwell prisoner population. It is something that comes naturally and she has this ability to calm any given situation. What has impressed me greatly about Paige, is the knowledge and understanding that she has for each prisoner in her care. She is able to talk to them knowledgeably and has insight into their complexities. Paige is the epitome of what a Prison Officer should be.’
Paige notes that in conducting her duties in IPD, she ‘quickly realised the unit exposed staff to a highly volatile environment and dirty protest conditions’, and this affected the personal wellbeing of staff as well as having a direct impact on overall operational effectiveness with regime deliverance and patient care.
‘I have always prided myself as being an individual that wants to cast a positive shadow on those around me, and find myself naturally gravitating towards finding ways to improve efficiency and make a real difference in the workplace.’ She cites her ‘passion, drive and tenacity’ and the ways in which she saw it could impact the IPD. Although most patients there suffered severe or enduring mental health illnesses, or needed extra support with Neurodiversity, they received only basic entitlements ‘because it was just too dangerous to provide them with more.’ Her own experience of being the victim of assault increased her motivation and drive to implement change ‘as soon as possible.’
Her well researched plans helped ‘instantly reduce violence’ and increase the wellbeing of staff alongside the men receiving appropriate care. She praises her supportive team for helping ‘nurture my innovative tendencies’ and empower her ‘to make positive change.’ Paige concludes that since she started working in IPD:
‘I was able to see the impact these changes had on the men and the staff. The more success our team had in managing and reintegrating these men, the more inspiring it became to wanting to achieve more… The environments which we work in are highly stressful no matter what unit you work in. Staff take pride in their roles and often this is something that is forgotten. I am extremely honoured and humbled in receiving this nomination. I was unaware of how highly other staff outside of IPD felt about me and this is honestly overwhelming. To be considered a valued member of the team is truly overwhelming.’